Search The Site
Share Your Ideas with OVW: Participate in a VAWA Conferral Session
September 6, 2013 Posted by

The Office on Violence Against Women is beginning its first-ever biennial conferral with stakeholders, and we want you to be part of it. We have two updates since our last notice:

  1. Due to popular demand, we have scheduled a second date for the Vulnerable Populations and Victims Facing Barriers to Accessing Services or Justice conferral.  You don’t need to sign up for both – they will be the same.  This conferral will be held on December 12 – details below.
  2. The date for the LGBT Issues conferral has been moved to November 6th.  An update was sent to invited participants.

Don’t forget to register for a conferral session if you would like to participate.  The first two conferrals are coming up this week – Tuesday the 24th and Wednesday the 25th – and will focus on STOP and SASP grants.  You can register at

Here is all the information you need to participate:

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 establishes a conferral process to ensure OVW is informed by State and tribal coalitions, OVW technical assistance providers, and other key stakeholders in the field. This message constitutes initiation of the first conferral process.

The areas of conferral include:

  • the administration of grants;
  • unmet needs;
  • promising practices in the field; and
  • emerging trends.

Not later than 90 days after the conclusion of the conferral period, OVW will publish a report that summarizes the issues presented during conferral and what policies we intend to implement to address those issues.

OVW’s 2013/2014 conferral process will be very broad because it is the first-ever conferral. In the future, OVW may select specific discretionary grant programs for discussion or focus on the four statutory conferral areas.

Due to sequestration and a strong emphasis on limiting conferences and travel expenditures, OVW will host the conferrals online through a webinar and/or conference call process. To save money while maximizing input from key stakeholders, OVW will also convene in-person conferral sessions at preexisting meetings.

To gather feedback from a wide range of key stakeholders, OVW will host a mix of invitation-only meetings and webinars/calls, meetings where attendees representing particular sectors are recruited through various methods, and meetings open to the general public.

OVW must confer with state and tribal coalitions and technical assistance providers, as well as other key stakeholders. Thus, the conferral process will emphasize feedback from these coalitions and TA providers, as well as crucial stakeholders such as STOP and SASP Administrators and grantees of other OVW programs. Tribal governments also have an annual consultation with OVW and provide input on VAWA programs.

Each conferral session – both in-person and virtual – will request feedback on the four statutory topics (administration of grants, unmet needs, promising practices in the field, and emerging trends), as well as any other issues raised by participating individuals. The conferral sessions will be structured as listening sessions, although OVW staff may answer questions if answers can be quickly and readily provided.

The conferral sessions will primarily occur during the fall and early winter, though some in-person sessions may be in the spring to utilize preexisting meetings. See below for planned dates of webinars/calls that are open to the public.

Individuals may register to attend as many open webinars/calls as they like. To maximize the number of people who are able to speak during the sessions, commenters will generally be limited to three minutes, after which their lines will be muted. If the comment is obscene or hateful, OVW may mute the line sooner. If you don’t get the chance to speak or still have more to say, don’t worry – you can submit brief written comments. (See below for details about written comments.)

All the open conferral listening sessions are for anyone with an interest – not just OVW grantees. Survivors, service providers who are not OVW grant recipients and other individuals who wish to comment are welcome to join. However, several sensitive issues will have a more limited participation in order to create a safe, productive space for conversation.

Conferral sessions will be at 5pm Eastern time to enable participation from all states and territories. Each webinar/call will be one hour long. Webinars will be closed-captioned and participants will be able to type comments and questions. Dates are subject to change. OVW will provide notice of any changes.

Conferral Sessions Open to the Public:

  1. STOP Formula Grants to States
    September 24, 2013 at 5pm EDT
  2. SASP Formula Grants to States and Sexual Assault Issues Generally
    September 25, 2013 at 5pm EDT
  3. Services and Access to Justice for Male Victims
    October 1, 2013 at 5pm EDT
  4. Vulnerable Populations and Victims Facing Barriers to Accessing Services or Justice (first session)
    November 7, 2013 at 5pm EST
  5. Technical Assistance: Needs in the Field
    December 11, 2013 at 5pm EST
  6. Vulnerable Populations and Victims Facing Barriers to Accessing Services or Justice (alternate session if you can’t make the first date – newly added)
    December 12, 2013 at 5pm EST
  7. Open Forum: Administration of Grants, Unmet Needs, Promising Practices in the Field, Emerging Issues, and Any Other Topics of Interest
    January 16, 2014 at 5pm EST

To register for a conferral session, visit After registering, you will receive information about how to join the conferrals.

Conferral Sessions by Invitation-Only:
(Invitations and instructions will follow via email.)

  1. Issues of Race and Ethnicity
    October 9, 2013 at 5pm EDT
    Open to organizations or programs that specifically serve racial and ethnic minority communities, as well as representatives of these communities.

  2. LGBT Issues
    November 6, 2013 at 5pm EST (new date)
    Open to organizations or programs that specifically serve LGBT communities, as well as representatives of these communities.

STOP/SASP Administrator, Coalitions, and TA Providers:

If you are a STOP or SASP Sate Formula Grant Administrator, a Tribal or State Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition Director, or an OVW Technical Assistance Provider, you will receive information about in-person and virtual (call/webinar) conferral listening sessions. You are welcome to attend the open conferral sessions as well.

Written Comments:

Individuals and organizations may submit written comments for each of the topical calls, but comments are limited to two pages. If comments exceed the limit, only the first two pages will be reviewed. Comments can be submitted any time from now until March 1, 2014. If you would like to submit comments, email them to Please put “conferral” in the subject line.

OVW intends to host a thorough conferral process. However, the conferral plan may need to change in response to developing events in the coming months and to information gleaned in the initial conferral sessions. For example, OVW may determine that fewer webinars/calls are needed or that a particular topic requires additional focus. Notice of relevant changes will be provided via email and/or OVW’s website. Don’t forget you can register for any of the open webinars at

We are excited to hear from you in the coming months.

Providing a Victim-Centered Response to Sexual Assault in Confinement Facilities
August 12, 2013 Posted by

In an effort to help improve victim-centered responses to sexual assault in correctional environments, I am excited to announce the release of a companion to the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations: Adults/Adolescents (SAFE Protocol) entitled Recommendations for Administrators of Prisons, Jails, and Community Confinement Facilities for Adapting the U.S. Department of Justice’s A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents (the Guide).

Sexual assault in correctional environments is a persistent problem, with serious, life-altering consequences for its victims.  Each year roughly 80,000 inmates experience sexual abuse.  We know that victims often feel they have no recourse – that because they were raped in prison, no one will care and there is no hope of punishment for the offender.  We also know that facilities are striving to provide better responses to such inmates. 

The Guide builds on the existing best practices outlined in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women publication, National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations: Adults/Adolescents, 2d., and is tailored to address the unique needs of victims in corrections.  For example, the Guide includes discussions on topics such as balancing safety and security needs of the facility with the victim’s needs, and making efforts to offer victims privacy, to the extent possible, in the aftermath of sexual assault.   In addition to helping facilities provide victim-centered care, the Guide can help correctional institutions meet requirements in the Department’s Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Standards relating to coordinated responses and partnering with victim advocacy organizations.

In developing the Guide, OVW held focus groups with experts from prisons, jails, and community corrections, including correctional administrators, medical practitioners, advocates, and experts from juvenile corrections and lockups.  OVW and the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) also held a joint workshop on rape crisis center response to victims in corrections in order to learn more about issues, challenges, and potential promising practices for partnerships between rape crisis centers and corrections. We heard about the challenges faced by victims in correctional environments – things like difficulty communicating with advocates and overall lack of control of their lives.  We also heard about challenges faced by the correctional organizations, such as the need to maintain security while meeting the victim’s needs.  Lastly, we heard about effective best practices.  For example, we heard about a program where corrections and community-based advocates had partnered, and advocates came to the facility to meet with victims.  This included cross-training so the advocates understood the unique needs of the victim population and the facility and the correctional organization understood the role of the advocates.

At OVW we understand that confinement facilities have unique needs and face specific challenges in responding to sexual assault. This new product will assist administrators of prisons, jails, and community confinement facilities in drafting or revising protocols for an immediate response to incidences and reports of sexual assault, and also identifies issues and recommendations for administrators of lockups and juvenile corrections.  This guide is just one step to ensuring safety and providing hope for sexual assault victims in correctional settings. We are excited to continue this work in partnership with Just Detention International (JDI), which is hosting a series of webinars and developing a web page with tools to help improve the capacity for rape crisis centers and correctional facilities to work together and comply with PREA standards. 

The PREA Resource Center and Vera Institute of Justice will be hosting a webinar on September 10, at 2:00 to provide further information on the Guide, its development, and how to use it.  Presenters include Marnie Shiels of OVW, Tara Graham of the PREA Resource Center, Allison Hastings of the Vera Institute of Justice, Linda McFarlane of Just Detention International, and Jennifer Feicht of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.  To register, go to

Download Recommendations for Administrators of Prisons, Jails, and Community Confinement Facilities for Adapting the U.S. Department of Justice’s A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents at

Joint Statement of The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, The Office for Victims of Crime, and The Office on Violence Against Women on Addressing Gender-Discrimination in Policing
June 20, 2013 Posted by

Over the last few decades, the United States has increasingly recognized that domestic and sexual violence are serious crimes that should be treated as such by law enforcement.  The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and other federal laws and programs have helped build criminal justice capacity and expertise, trained thousands of officers, and resulted in more effective law enforcement.  DOJ is proud of our long-standing partnership with law enforcement agencies across the country working every day to ensure that justice is served for women who are victims of violence.  We have made tremendous strides in response by law enforcement to sexual assault and intimate partner violence since the passage of VAWA in 1994.  However, the rate of crimes against women remains deeply troubling.  According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. has been raped and 1 in 4 has experienced severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Law enforcement agencies face difficult challenges in addressing violence against women.  Our understanding of effective strategies for providing police services free from gender bias has advanced significantly over the past 20 years, and many departments have taken important steps to ensure that they have the policies, training, staffing, and supervision necessary to conduct conclusive, reliable investigations.  Unfortunately, reports of law enforcement agencies failing to investigate or adequately respond to domestic and sexual violence periodically surface.  While a failure to properly respond to crimes against women may have many causes, in some instances gender bias plays a role in undermining the effective response by law enforcement to crimes against women.

The U.S. Constitution and federal statutes prohibit discriminatory policing of domestic or sexual violence by law enforcement agencies – such as under-enforcement of domestic or sexual violence laws or enforcement caused by gender bias.  The prevention of sex-based discrimination, including sex-based discrimination by law enforcement, is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.  Most recently the Division announced three related agreements with the University of Montana – Missoula, the University’s campus police force, and the Missoula Police Department to address serious concerns that these entities were discriminating against women by failing to adequately respond to and investigate reports of sexual assaults of women, including students at the University of Montana.2

The Civil Rights Division has conducted investigations addressing whether women were subject to discriminatory practices related to police services and has found a pattern of discrimination in the New Orleans Police Department and similar problems with the Puerto Rico Police Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.  These law enforcement agencies are not alone in their need to improve their response to sexual assault and all forms of violence against women.  Indeed, through their agreements with the Department of Justice, Missoula, New Orleans, and Puerto Rico are working to implement reforms that will stand as models to other law enforcement agencies across the country.  We encourage other jurisdictions across the country to follow their lead and review and revise policies, protocols, and, most importantly, practices, to ensure they are free from gender bias. 

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), the Office for Victims of Crimes (OVC), and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) join together in our commitment to providing law enforcement agencies with the resources, technical assistance, and support that they need to ensure safety for all members of their communities and achieve compliance with applicable federal laws.  Our grantees and technical assistance providers have produced model policies, training curricula, best practices, and a host of resources for law enforcement on how to appropriately address domestic and sexual violence cases.  Examples include:   

AI/AN SANE-SART Initiative (
OVC, in partnership with the FBI and the Indian Health Service (IHS), implemented the American Indian/Alaska Native Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – Sexual Assault Response Team (AI/AN SANE-SART) Initiative to enhance the capacity of AI/AN communities to provide high-quality multidisciplinary, coordinated services and support for adult and child victims of sexual assault.  This multi-component initiative includes the provision of tailored training and technical assistance to AI/AN communities to develop effective culturally relevant services and programs that can serve as models for other AI/AN communities nationwide.

EVAW International (
End Violence Against Women International (EVAW), working in partnership with OVW, has developed the OnLine Training Institute to bring state-of-the-art training on the topic of criminal justice response to sexual assault.  The OnLine Training Institute provides the opportunity for interested professionals to expand their knowledge of cutting edge developments in the criminal justice and community response to sexual assault, with particular emphasis on those crimes committed by someone who is known to the victim (i.e., non-strangers).

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), working in partnership with OVW, produced “Investigating Sexual Assault Model Policy” and “Sexual Assault Incident Reports: Investigative Strategies.”  These documents provide guidelines for responding to reports of sexual assault and developing a coordinated response to these crimes. 

Working in partnership with OVC, IACP developed “Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Victims,” a comprehensive set of resources for agencies to use in improving their approach to victims, including victims of sexual assault.  Resources include an implementation guide, accompanying implementation tools, and training enhancements.  A DVD about the initiative, “Service, Support & Justice: Law Enforcement Response to Crime Victims,” highlights the benefits, challenges, methods, and responsibilities of placing a high priority on crime victims’ interests.

The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), in partnership with OVW and key stakeholders in the field, developed Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Technical Assistance (SAFEta) to promote and disseminate the “National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations of Adults and Adolescents” and to provide training and technical assistance for all sexual assault responders about sexual assault forensic examinations and related issues.  The SAFEta website is designed for multi-disciplinary team members who are working with victims of sexual assault and includes the section “Especially for Law Enforcement,” highlighting the sections of the SAFE National Protocol and other resources that may be most helpful for law enforcement.

The University of Arkansas National Center for Rural Law Enforcement (NCRLE), working in partnership with OVW, developed a sexual assault curriculum for law enforcement executives in rural areas nationwide.  NCRLE also offers the “Sexual Assault Training for Rural Law Enforcement Personnel Online,” ensuring that sexual assault training is accessible to all rural law enforcement agencies, both management and investigator, regardless of staffing resources and budget limitations.

Oregon SATI (
The State of Oregon Sexual Assault Taskforce, working in partnership with OVW, provides ongoing training and technical assistance through “the Sexual Assault Training Institute” (SATI) to all members of a sexual assault response team, including law enforcement, through a series of statewide and regional trainings.

OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center
The OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) is the gateway to current training and technical assistance for victim service providers and allied professionals who serve crime victims.  The aim of OVC TTAC is to build the capacity of victim-serving organizations and agencies across the country through a variety of training and technical assistance.  OVC TTAC has numerous resources focused on enhancing the capacity of professionals, including law enforcement, to assist victims of sexual assault.

Problem-Oriented Guides for Police
Working in partnership with the COPS Office, the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing has produced two guides to strengthen police response to violence against women.  Sexual Assault of Women by Strangers ( police with an overview of the problem of sexual assault of women by strangers and the factors that increase its risks, and Domestic Violence ( is an essential tool for law enforcement to help analyze and respond to their local problem.

SART Toolkit (
OVC released the SART Toolkit, an online collection of resources for communities considering establishment of a SART team or those seeking to improve their existing coordinated response to victims of sexual assault.  The resources contained in the Toolkit are intended to assist, formalize, expand on and evaluate SART responses by providing guidance on such topics as: culturally specific services; increasing accessibility of services; expanding services to improve investigative and prosecutorial practices; enhancing multijurisdictional responses; and forming permanent partnerships within the community to help ensure the SART model is sustained over time.

For more information about the Civil Rights Division’s Letters of Findings and Settlement Agreements, please click on the following links:

University of Montana

Findings Letter:

Settlement Agreement:

University of Montana Office of Public Safety

Findings Letter:

Settlement Agreement:

Missoula Police Department

Findings Letter:

Settlement Agreement:

New Orleans Police Department

Findings Letter:

Settlement Agreement:

Puerto Rico Police Department

Findings Letter:

Settlement Agreement:

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

Findings Letter:

Working together, we at OVW, COPS and OVC commend and stand ready to support jurisdictions like Missoula that are prepared to do the hard work of ensuring that all victims of violence, regardless of gender, have access to the justice and safety they deserve.  For additional information on funding and/or training and technical assistance opportunities in support of your communities’ efforts, please visit our websites at,, and

Joshua A. Ederheimer
Acting Director
COPS Office

Joye Frost
Principal Deputy Director

Bea Hanson
Acting Director


2 The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights reached the agreement with the University of Montana under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit sex discrimination in education programs, including sexual assault and harassment. The Department of Justice negotiated the agreements with the University’s Office of Public Safety and the Missoula Police Department and under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.  More information about the statutes enforced in these investigations is available on the Division’s website at (discrimination by law enforcement) and (discrimination in education).

Raising Awareness: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2013
June 14, 2013 Posted by

“It was just constant degrading. ‘You are stupid.’ He controlled all the finances and he controlled my whole life.” (Walk in Our Shoes: Working with Older Survivors of Abuse)

Patsy was raped and abused by her husband for years.  As she aged, the abuse intensified.  For a long time, she told no one.  Patsy is one of the courageous survivors who shared her story for Walk in Our Shoes: Working with Older Survivors of Abuse.  Walk in Our Shoes is an OVW-funded collection of videos to help service providers learn strategies for working with older victims and for designing and implementing specialized services that meet the unique needs of older victims.

Patsy is among the estimated 11% of older adults who experience elder abuse every year.  Elder abuse is the physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, abandonment, neglect, or financial exploitation of an older individual.  Victims may be abused by spouses, partners, adult children and grandchildren, caregivers, other people in positions of power and authority, and strangers.  Although anyone can be a victim—regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental capacity, and physical ability—the vast majority of victims are women.

Victims face a number of barriers to reporting abuse and seeking help. Like other victims of domestic violence, elder abuse victims may feel a profound sense of guilt, shame, or self-blame.  Others may feel love or a sense of protectiveness for their abuser, who may be a long-time partner or adult child, or fear intensified violence or retaliation if they try to leave an abusive situation.  As Patsy recalls of her own experience, “I would hear other people…talking about people who were abused and [saying,] ‘Why didn’t they just leave? Well they’re so stupid for staying.’  Unless you walk in our shoes and know what we are going through and this fear that is so horrendous that just comes over us. It’s like a mist, it’s a very fine mist, and it just keeps coming more and more…”

Still other victims may be trapped physically or economically due to vision, hearing, mobility, or psychological impairments, or financial dependence.  As one survivor recalls, “To get out of that relationship and to get on with my life[,] it took a lot of effort on my part.  Here I had no money to speak of. I was leaving the house, going out into the world, with $89 in my pocket, for the month.  I had nothing really…. It was really scary.”  Indeed, over 75% of elder abuse victims are dependent on others for at least some care or assistance.

Fewer than 5% of elder abuse cases ever come to light. Even victims who do report violence often receive inadequate support due to lack of understanding and coordination among service providers.

As victims suffer and the elderly population continues to grow, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is working to dismantle the barriers that prevent elder abuse victims from obtaining support through its Enhanced Training and Services to End Violence Against and Abuse of Women Later in Life grant program.  This grant program provides training to criminal justice professionals and victim service providers on recognizing and responding to elder abuse, as well as direct services to victims. 

OVW also funds an array of training resources through the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) and the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).  NCALL has developed an informative series of Abuse in Later Life information sheets.

One of our grant recipients recently reflected, “The [OVW] funds have allowed us to mobilize multidisciplinary groups of professionals and activate them to fully engage in education. . . . Before this project no one in my district was talking about elder abuse. . . . Now, everyone is!”

As we recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, we at OVW invite you to take this opportunity to raise awareness about elder abuse.

Check out these federally funded resources:

Learn more or take action in your community for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day:

It’s long past time that we all start talking about elder abuse, acknowledging the reality of such violence in our families, our neighborhoods, and our communities—and resolving to end it.  In Patsy’s words, “I feel free except I’m [still] constantly watching over my shoulders and things like that.  But it has helped me so much to gain my confidence and just to laugh again and know that I’m a good person, I’m okay, and I’m going to be alright.”

Recognizing National Mental Health Awareness Month and the Importance of Trauma-informed Care

This May we join the Administration in recognizing National Mental Health Awareness Month. We know that the trauma of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking can have devastating mental health consequences. Unfortunately, we also know that the mental health needs of survivors frequently go unmet due to lack of community resources. 

Individuals who experience domestic violence or sexual assault are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, sleep disturbances, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies have shown that 64% of domestic violence survivors and up to 94% of sexual assault survivors experience PTSD. It is critical to offer survivors high-quality mental health and support services that recognize the pervasiveness of trauma and its impact on survivors.

In recent years, domestic violence and sexual assault service organizations have integrated trauma-informed care into their service delivery model. Trauma-informed care incorporates an understanding of the pervasiveness of trauma and reflects an understanding that “symptoms” may be survival strategies – adaptations to intolerable situations when real protection is unavailable and a person’s coping mechanisms are overwhelmed. Trauma-informed care is designed to reduce retraumatization and support healing and resiliency in a manner that incorporates culturally specific experiences of trauma and provides culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate services. Organizations providing trauma-informed services create safe spaces for healing based on the principles of respect, dignity, empowerment, and hope. They also reflect an awareness of the impact of this work on providers and emphasize the importance of organizational support and provider self-care.

OVW is proud to support projects implementing innovative, trauma-informed strategies that reduce the mental health consequences of domestic and sexual violence survivors.  In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to highlight a few of the amazing programs of our grantees providing trauma-informed services.

  • OVW’s Children Exposed to Violence grantees are training programs on Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy for children. This form of therapy is highly successful in improving mental health outcomes for children with a history of experiencing trauma, such as child sexual abuse and witnessing domestic violence.
  • The National Sexual Violence Resource Center is using OVW funding to provide an innovative course entitled “The Brain, Body, and Trauma.” This course, designed for victim service providers, gives an overview of the neurobiological and psychological implications of sexually violent trauma and the information and skills necessary to provide trauma-informed services.
  •  The International Association of Chiefs of Police developed the Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training Project to support the development of officer skills needed to make effective initial response and investigative decisions in sexual assault cases.  Officers learn about the effects of trauma on victims, the realities and myths of sexual assault crimes, and how to identify and document perpetrator behaviors used to test, select and isolate victims.
  • The Rose Brooks Center in Kansas City, MO created a training on universal design and trauma informed care as part of their Safety First Initiative. The training connects the principles of universal design – creating spaces that are inherently accessible to all individuals, regardless of age, ability, or health – with principles of trauma informed care and is a core competency for both local domestic violence providers and disability service providers. Training participants identify practices they can adapt within their agencies to prevent retraumatization and improve outcomes for survivors.
  • Community Abuse Prevention Services Agency (CAPSA) in Logan, UT began reviewing their policies, procedures and practices through a trauma-informed lens.  This approach provided CAPSA with the opportunity to change their organizational culture, provide more individualized services, and work with people in a more holistic manner. CAPSA developed a Planning Ahead process that allows staff to discuss any particular stressors or needs a shelter resident may anticipate while living in a communal shelter environment. 

More resources on this important subject can be found at the HHS-funded National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health

On a final note, in our efforts to provide compassionate care for survivors, we often forget about the importance of self-care. The staff at OVW and I know from our own experiences that working with survivors of trauma and violence can lead to burn out and compassion fatigue. It is when we are at our healthiest, physically and mentally, that we are able to provide the best services and most compassionate care. I encourage you to be mindful of your own mental health needs.  

During Mental Health Awareness Month, we are reminded of the many ways in which mental health issues can impact each and everyone of us.  By working together I am confident that we can promote healing and increase the health of all our communities.

Statement by Acting Director for the Office on Violence Against Women Bea Hanson on the Agreements with the University of Montana
May 10, 2013 Posted by

Yesterday the Department of Justice announced that it had entered into two agreements with the University of Montana to ensure that the University responds swiftly and effectively to sexual assault and harassment on campus. Information about the investigations and agreements can be found on Justice News. The investigations at the University of Montana, which make clear that improper handling of sexual violence investigations on campus may constitute sex-based discrimination prohibited by federal civil rights laws and the Equal Protection guarantee of the United States Constitution, complement an on-going effort by the Administration to address the devastatingly high rate of sexual assault on campus.

Young women aged 16-24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, and as many as 1 in 5 have been victims of sexual assault during college. These crimes on campuses raise unique issues and challenges. For example, a victim of sexual assault may continue to live in the same dormitory or attend the same classes as the perpetrator. On smaller campuses, a victim may wish to remain anonymous but may find this to be virtually impossible in such an insular environment. Victims may find it difficult to escape their rapists because the individual may have a seemingly “legitimate” reason for remaining in contact with or in proximity to the victim (e.g., studying in the library). In other cases, a victim may be harassed by classmates or by a perpetrator’s friends who claim that the victim “asked for it” or “provoked” the crime. Recognizing these challenges, Congress created the Grants to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking on Campus Program (Campus Program), which is administered by OVW.

OVW’s Campus Program is designed to encourage colleges and universities to adopt comprehensive, coordinated responses to violent crimes against women on campuses. Recipients of funds through the Campus Program, are required to provide prevention education on violence against women for all incoming students, train campus law enforcement or security staff on appropriate responses to violence against women, train members of campus judicial or disciplinary boards on the unique dynamics of violence against women, and create a coordinated community response to violence against women.

Since Fiscal Year 1999, OVW has awarded 321 grants directly to institutions of higher education to implement the Campus Program requirements and guidelines. Currently the Campus Program has 89 active awards supporting 150 institutions —including the University of Montana, which received an award in 2012.

As an extension of our work in the Campus Program, in October 2011, OVW hosted a 2-day National Summit on Campus Safety for College and University Presidents. The purpose of the Summit was to strengthen partnerships between the federal government and concerned college and university presidents and regents and elevate the national dialogue about sexual assault, dating violence and domestic violence on campus. In addition, to assist educators with their sexual assault prevention efforts, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” and guidance on sexual harassment in 2011, which outlines a school’s responsibilities under Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities of recipients of federal financial assistance.

The University of Montana is not alone in its need to improve its response to violence against women on campus. But today, the University is poised to stand as a model of how campus officials can step up and make our nation’s colleges safe for all students. I commend the University of Montana for its commitment to reform. I look forward to partnering with the University as they work to address the issues identified in the Civil Rights Division’s investigation and create a campus environment where students are safe from violence and able to access help when needed. I hope colleges across the country will follow their lead.